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ISS NASA Space Science

Fire Burns Differently In Space 146

New submitter black6host writes with this interesting snippet from Space.com: "NASA is playing with fire on the International Space Station — literally. Since March 2009, the space agency's Flame Extinguishment Experiment, or FLEX, has conducted more than 200 tests to better understand how fire behaves in microgravity, which is still not well understood. The research could lead to improved fire suppression systems aboard future spaceships, and it could also have practical benefits here on Earth, scientists said."
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Fire Burns Differently In Space

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  • by syousef ( 465911 ) on Thursday December 01, 2011 @11:09AM (#38226010) Journal

    Well, as long as there is oxygen around, things should combust.

    Sure, in a crude way you're right and there are a lot of electricals and combustibles on spacecraft. But HOW does it burn when there is no UP? We're so use to hot air rising that our everyday ideas of how to deal with a fire, like get down low, will not work in space. These are ideas that save lives here but are of no use if a fire were to break out. We can only develop new ideas if we get some direct experimental experience. Also it may lead to an ability to harness the differences inherent in a zero g process for industrial/manufacturing processes (but I'm just speculating here). This is worthwhile basic science.

  • Why? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 01, 2011 @11:19AM (#38226138)

    Why does everything have to be some stupid ass acronym?

  • by bmo ( 77928 ) on Thursday December 01, 2011 @11:23AM (#38226182)

    but I'd be curious if anyone has any idea what the practical benefits of this experiment could be.

    Without basic science, you don't get applied science.

    I sure wish the know-nothing "hurr why study fruit flies? hurr!" idiots would fucking understand this.

    But no. They get in their cars and drive, use computers, talk on cellphones, dance at the club to kilowatts of audio, eat, drink, and be merry and then decry the amount of money we spend on basic science to make all that possible.

    Don't like money spent on basic science? Go live in a yurt.


  • by bberens ( 965711 ) on Thursday December 01, 2011 @12:10PM (#38226732)
    I would be quite shocked to find that there wasn't constant airflow in the space station. It's not going to be a wind tunnel in there but there's going to be constant circulation from temperature control systems, whatever they use to filter the excess CO2 out of the air, etc.
  • by JasterBobaMereel ( 1102861 ) on Thursday December 01, 2011 @12:38PM (#38227064)

    One day sir, you may tax it. - Faraday's reply to William Gladstone, then British Chancellor of the Exchequer (minister of finance), when asked of the practical value of electricity (1850)

  • by mr1911 ( 1942298 ) on Thursday December 01, 2011 @12:48PM (#38227176)

    Okay, there's no GRAVITATIONAL convection, which is the dominant method that enables fresh oxygen to get to a fire in the earth's atmosphere.

    Don't tell that to fires. Fires often create their own convection due to a variety of factors.

  • by a whoabot ( 706122 ) on Thursday December 01, 2011 @02:47PM (#38229370)

    What you, grandparent, and great-grandparent have overlooked is just how inveterate motion is. Matter is always in motion above zero degrees Kelvin. The environment of the space station is going to be around room temperature, well above 0K, meaning lots of atomic motion. The molecules of this CO2 "bubble" will quickly disperse as they follow down their concentration gradient. Conversely, molecules of O2 will quickly reach the flame as they follow down their concentration gradient. The astronauts could stop oxygen from getting to the flame by sealing it, but not by staying very still.

  • by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Thursday December 01, 2011 @03:22PM (#38229932) Journal
    Islands in the Sky by Arthur C. Clarke. A kid wins a contest and wins a trip to a space station as the prize. While on board he learns about microgravity environments, and due to an emergency, gets to travel to various other stations (a Zero G hospital, a communications station, a space hotel). A good, light read.

"my terminal is a lethal teaspoon." -- Patricia O Tuama